Last night on the return of Last Week Tonight following its brief break, John Oliver once again faced the horrors of 2016, plunging into the depths of an event that’s a breeding ground for all of the potential horrors that likewise await us in the coming years — the Republican National Convention, of course. If some of that wording seems sensational, Oliver’s take was equally doom-y, as he dubbed it “the most apocalyptic thing ever to happen to [Cleveland], and bear in mind, their river has repeatedly caught fire.” (An aspect of the city’s history that seems popular among late night hosts).
Oliver, in his weekly format, doesn’t often get to have the fastest take on the news, and he acknowledged that the Convention had already been over for a while when the episode aired on Saturday; but the infrequency (or “last week tonight”-ness) of his news coverage gives him the chance to go further in depth with these things, or, as he puts it, to best mine “what the fuck just happened.” Aptly, he depicted it as a convention that emphasized “feelings over facts,” and noted that the theme of the convention was the “implication that believing something to be true is the same as it being true.”
He first focused on the common theme of speakers (including UFC President Dana White) lauding Trump as an entrepreneurial visionary, and using that to assert his ability to run America — which, perhaps because it’s a country and stuff, shouldn’t be seen as quite so parallel to a corporation. “You can’t say Trump isn’t a visionary — for a long time, he was the only one who envisioned himself as a presidential nominee,” says Oliver, before putting the perfect spin on this whole nightmare: “He’s basically what happens if The Secret gets into the wrong hands.”
Oliver notes how the narrative of Trump as an able manager was set against a convention that itself was quite mismanaged, from Melania’s Michelle Obama imitation to Trump allegedly knowing that Cruz wouldn’t endorse him beforehand:
Oliver equates it to the captain of the Titanic tweeting, “I saw that iceberg two hours before and sailed into it anyway. No big deal!” From Trump’s lack of preparation for the big Republican Party-party, Oliver jumps into the party’s simultaneous unpreparedness for Trump.
Getting to the heart of the notion that the convention hinged on emotional appeal to manipulate facts, Oliver excerpts Trump’s fear-mongering speech that depicted the Obama administration as a catalyst for violence and chaos at home. “Since Obama took office,” Oliver rebuts, “crime rates, the flow of illegal immigrants over our borders, and claims for unemployment benefits have all declined. And yet frighteningly, when reporters started pointing that out, it didn’t seem to matter.” He cuts to a cringe-worthy display of walking-cringe-worthy-display Newt Gingrich’s aversion to fact-checking.
Oliver concludes with an assertion how Trump’s appeal to people’s feelings dangerously attempted to get their trust in him as the one person who could fix all problems and keep America safe, regardless of what types of brute force that might entail. He returns to a pre-political Trump to note the foreshadowing one might now see in a music video made for The Apprentice, in which Trump said, “This is a dictatorship, and I’m the dictator.”
The fact that Trump recently hired Omarosa from The Apprentice to be his Director of African-American Outreach shows, as so many other things he’s done have, that perhaps he’s not so intent on separating Reality TV from political reality.